News

January 1, 2021

US/UK: “Future of journalism” at stake as historic extradition decision looms in case of Julian Assange

Just days ahead of the historic forthcoming decision in the US extradition case against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again condemns the targeting of Assange for his contributions to journalism and calls for his immediate release.

Extradition proceedings against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange are set to conclude on 4 January, when District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is due to give her decision in a 10 am hearing at London’s Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey). This follows a week of proceedings in February 2020 at the Woolwich Crown Court, during which legal arguments were presented, and four weeks of proceedings at the Old Bailey in September, when witness testimony was heard.


“The case against Julian Assange is outrageous. It is clearly politically motivated and intended to make an example of Assange and create a chilling effect on media around the world. If the US government is successful in securing Assange’s extradition and prosecuting him for his contributions to public interest reporting, the same precedent could be applied to any journalist anywhere. The possible implications of this case simply cannot be understated; it is the very future of journalism and press freedom that is at stake,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.


RSF will be attempting to monitor the 4 January hearing either remotely or in person. Following the judge’s decision to revoke access for all NGO observers at the start of September’s proceedings at the Old Bailey, the only way RSF could monitor proceedings was to gain physical access to the very few spaces made available in the public gallery of the overflow courtroom each day. RSF was the only NGO to do so, and documented extensive barriers to open justice.


Ahead of the 4 January decision, RSF has delivered the final version of its petition of more than 108,000 signatures (between the international and German versions), which closed on 31 December 2020, calling on the UK authorities not to extradite Assange. 10 Downing Street previously refused to accept the petition when RSF attempted to deliver it on 7 September alongside Assange’s partner Stella Moris, and never acknowledged the email submission that followed. 


This time the petition has been submitted via email to Number 10, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. RSF has also posted a visual containing the names of all signatories to its home page and across all of its international social media accounts.


The US and UK are respectively ranked 45th and 35th in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.


Press contact: Rebecca Vincent at [email protected] or +44 7583 137751 (Vincent will be available for interview before and after the 4 January hearing).